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McLean with bat, will travel

November 2, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama sophomore centerfield Rylee McLean did not let her skills on the softball field go rusty over the fall as she competed with the Bomb Squad travel team out of Waterloo these past few months.

"I enjoy playing softball and I decided I wanted to grow further with it as I improve," McLean said. "I love the atmosphere softball provides with your teammates and how you improve with them through the season."

McLean, a Second Team All-Conference selection at outfield this past season, chose not to return to volleyball this season and instead expressed interest in a travel team. She explained she wanted to improve her hitting beyond ground-outs and improve throws from the outfield at certain distances. Joining the Bomb Squad, McLean quickly learned there are unexpected difference between travel ball and playing in high school, mainly the teammates she now calls friends.

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"They are all very outgoing and different than my schoolmates," McLean said. "We have a lot of fun together. In high school, you know everyone you play with and travel ball I didn't know anyone. Otherwise, there's really no difference between the two in terms of play."

The travel season consists of tournaments played throughout major cities in the state, including Waterloo and Marion. On average, McLean hit .520 and batted in 13 runners to make a significant impact on the team according to her travel coach, Ken Foss.

"Rylee is a very good outfielder and performed very well hitting over the season," Foss said. "She's not the outspoken type of leader, but the girls gravitate towards her because of her performance and her work ethic. That was a pleasant surprise with this being her first season."

Foss watches as McLean Gets improved with a good jump on the ball, noting she wasn't the fastest he'd seen at that position. However, he also emphasized the Traer native "can track down flys." In regards to her hitting, Foss felt McLean "makes the pitcher work hard to get her out and puts the ball in play." However, Foss believes her biggest growth wasn't athletically, but in herself.

"The biggest thing Rylee grew in was her confidence in herself," Foss said. "I feel she came into this season not really sure what to expect with travel ball. This seemed to be her first time playing with people outside of her school team or her community. Just gaining that confidence was important and she grew as a player. She'll need to be more selective for strikes, looking for pitches in her area. Once she gets those two strikes, Rylee can extend her area and play more defensively."

While McLean admits her team had "an up and down season" as she adjusted to the team, she also felt her hitting improved in terms of variety and being more selective and she enjoyed the experience overall.

"We didn't always play well, but we came together as a team and knew we would be fine in the end," McLean said. "It's mostly about playing rather than win-loss. I would probably do this again, but I would want to do it with my teammates here in Traer. I'm hoping they'll join me and I think it's likely. It was a good experience to meet new people and I'm glad I did it."

Her coach is more than open to the idea of welcoming North Tama players in the spring as several spots have opened on the roster.

"It's great to have her on the team," Foss said. "Rylee would work on the areas you told her to without complaint. There was no attitude and it was a pleasure to coach her this season."

McLean and the North Tama Redhawks will look to move on from last season, where they posted a 8-15 campaign and were knocked out Regionals in the second round by Janesville. The 2019 season will be without the pitcher-catcher duo of Tessa Dvorak and Olivia Schrier, but the experience with the Bomb Squad could see McLean take on a bigger role for the Redhawks.

"I am very excited about Rylee making softball a priority," North Tama softball coach Sam Holtz said. "I think this will be great experience for her and will only further her abilities. She was Second Team outfielder this past summer, however with Tessa leaving, she will be a huge asset to the mound for us this coming season. I'm hoping this experience will boost her confidence on the mound because she has so much potential if she just believes it."



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